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There are some sales organizations that sell to companies that are seeking to change providers. In these cases, the B2B buyer has already decided to remove their existing provider and starts taking calls from different salespeople. These companies agree to meet with two or three sales reps to explore their options. This process works like most other sales, but there is another sales strategy in which a salesperson approaches companies that are not actively looking to replace their provider. The objective is what we call competitive displacement.

In competitive selling displacement you cause your prospective client to remove your competitor and replace them with your company and your offerings. To take a competitor's existing customers, you need a red-ocean selling technique. In some industries, all salespeople are attempting to steal their competitors’ business while also fighting off competitors hoping to displace them. You need greater skills to win these deals.

Why Clients Remove Their Providers

Sales organizations that believe that a long-term contract is enough to prevent them from being removed are surprised when a client informs them they are being replaced. The good salesperson who won the client's business is stunned to lose their client and their commissions. And in the sales organization that displaced them, another good salesperson is eager to help their new client succeed.

There are quite a few reasons contacts engage in conversations with salespeople looking to displace an existing provider. The first reason is that their current provider is failing them. While the provider in place once solved the client's pain points, they no longer meet the client’s needs, and the contact realizes this. Another reason contacts remove and replace a provider is due to complacency. If a company feels their existing provider doesn’t give them the attention or the results they need, they'll look elsewhere for help.

How to Each Your Client's Lunch

A competitive selling displacement occurs over a long sales cycle, even if you win it quickly. Because your competitor already has the client, it can take a long time to book a sales call with a contact. To succeed in scheduling a first meeting, you must have a long-term strategy to pursue the client. You need a marketing and sales approach that provides an insight-based, value-creating, prospecting sequence.

Successful salespeople in this red-ocean sale can pursue a large client for months or years. In most sales where a client is proactively looking for help, you want access to a decision-maker. When displacing a competitor, it's sometimes better start by identifying the buyer persona that aligns with the internal employees who are unhappy with their existing provider. By capturing all their complaints and understanding what they need, they will take you to the CEO of the problem, the person who is responsible for securing better results.

Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition is about competitive displacements in B2B sales. This book starts with a sales strategy called Level-Four Value Creation, which allows effective salespeople to start a conversation about the strategic outcomes the client needs instead of the features and benefits they can offer.

When you are trying to steal your competitor’s client, the sales process found in the legacy approach is often inadequate. You need an insight-based approach built on value-creation strategies that differentiate you and your company. By addressing the client’s lack of strategic results, you create an opportunity that both you and the client need.


The Challenges of B2B Competitive Displacements

The first challenge you face when pursuing a displacement is that the person who signed the competitor’s contract is likely to have a relationship with several people at the provider’s company. They've experienced ups and downs over time, and they may be loyal to the people who have mostly been loyal to them. To shift their business to you, they must fire their current supplier. Many people do not look forward to potentially unpleasant conversations, and this is no exception.

Another challenge is that you are an unknown. Maybe you will produce better results, but maybe you won't. Because clients are comfortable with the devil they know, they hesitate to sign a contract with someone unfamiliar. Your contact may worry you will create new problems that can harm their position in the company. Successful sales in a displacement means creating certainty and removing any doubts your contact may have.

Finally, every industry has a set of common challenges that can impede displacement. These problems are systemic, making them difficult to overcome. Sales teams who learn how to address them and deliver strategic outcomes do well in displacements. Salespeople with a competitive displacement strategy learn that it is better to explain to the client why they are having problems rather than asking what those problems and pain points are.

Displacements on the Horizontal and the Vertical

To remove your competitor, you need to build consensus among the people in the department responsible for the strategic results they need to improve. This block of contacts is vertical, meaning you need agreement from the head of the department down to the end-user stakeholders.

What sometimes makes a competitive displacement difficult is that you also need stakeholders in other departments, people who are considered to be along the horizontal. Because different departments and their people have different needs, you must help them build consensus.

How to Prevent a Competitive Displacement

The best way to prevent displacement is by executing and producing the client's strategic outcomes. To keep your competitors out of your clients, you need to create new value, anticipating their needs and proactively finding ways to improve their results. You want to build a firewall around your relationships and make it difficult for your competitors to find their way into your client’s company.

How to Eat Their Lunch and Displace Your Competitor

The first thing you need to steal your competitors’ clients is a modern sales approach. This approach will allow you to pursue the client over a long period of time, as this type of sale is a long-game play. You'll also have to raise the stakes by addressing the cost of not generating the critical outcomes the company needs. The nature of this type of sale requires consensus, and you will need to take the lead in building it vertically and horizontally. This is how you eat their lunch, while you and your team prevent them from eating yours.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 5, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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